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Mick Hucknall - Tribute To Bobby

Mick Hucknall, A Tribute To Bobby

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

TRIBUTE To Bobby marks the first solo album of Simply Red luminary Mick Hucknall. It’s a collection of soul classics originally recorded by the legendary Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, one of the singer’s inspirations.

And, for the most part, it’s an assured collection of songs that in no way tarnishes the memory of Bland. Rather, it’s a fitting, even loving, tribute that Hucknall clearly enjoys being given the chance to perform.

Ironically, its strength is also its weakness. For while there are some gems among them, to get the most from this collection you really need an appreciation of Bland’s music in the first place. It’s also rather constricting and some Hucknall fans might lament the fact this his first solo record doesn’t afford the singer much opportunity to really broaden his horizons.

At times, and because of the fact his vocals are so familiar, the album doesn’t really feel like that much of a departure from Simply Red’s balladry (which explains why Bland’s recordings were such an influence).

As churlish as some of these criticisms sound, however, they did rather prevent the LP from becoming a classic (in my opinion). Rather, it’s an assured collection of songs, lovingly crafted and delivered, that requires a similar appreciation for the soul, blues and R’n‘B that Bland favoured.

Highlights include the vibrant album opener Farther Up The Road, which should get the feet shuffling and boasts some finger-clicking good percussion, while I’m Too Far Gone (To Turn Around) opens in spectacular, gospel-dripped fashion, before settling into a deeply soulful ode to love (“if I give you my heart, please don’t tear it apart”).

Yolanda cuts quite a funky strut, complete with welcome stabs of brass and jammin’ basslines, while there’s another soulful vibe surrounding I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treat Me).

But the very best is definitely saved til almost last, with renditions of I Pity The Fool and Cry, Cry, Cry really making the album come alive. Hucknall, too, seems to genuinely relish the challenge of wrapping his vocals around some of the lyrics, while the accompanying instrumentation is suitably emotive.

Some tracks, however, just didn’t work for me. Lead single Poverty lacked anything to really mark it out and seemed an odd choice for a single, except for the fact it doesn’t sound that different from a Simply Red record. And perhaps that’s why as it boasts easy appeal to fans.

But Stormy Monday Blues and I’ll Take Care Of You were another two examples of songs that failed to make as strong an impression on me – perhaps because I wasn’t aware of the original formats.

On the whole, however, Tribute To Bobby is a much better album than I’d initially been anticipating, albeit with the aforementioned reservations in mind. Hucknall’s fans will probably enjoy it, while fans of Bobby ‘Blue’ surely won’t be disappointed. It’ll be interesting to see whether Hucknall opts for original recordings for any sophomore solo album, though.

Download picks: I Pity The Fool, Cry, Cry, Cry, Yolanda, I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me)

Track listing:
Disc: 1

  1. Farther Up The Road
  2. Ain’t That Lovin’ You
  3. I’m Too Far Gone (To Turn Around)
  4. Poverty
  5. Yolanda
  6. Stormy Monday Blues
  7. I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me)
  8. I’ll Take Care Of You
  9. Chains Of Love
  10. I Pity The Fool
  11. Cry, Cry, Cry
  12. Lead Me On

Disc: 2

  1. Documentary DVD Filmed in Memphis, Tennessee in November 2007